Saturday, 18 June 2016

As Mighty As The Ants

The news is portraying a very sad and dark world this week. So many attacks, injuries and deaths. It feels almost overwhelming.

I left my house this morning and almost directly outside, a man and woman were having a fight in the street, her imploring him to calm down and him adamant he is going to go kick someone he was out with last night's, head in.
On the bus we have to redirect as the main road into town is closed. There are ribbons of police tape cordoning off the street, a riot van, police car and another car with its boot open. I don't know what has happened there, but you can guarantee it's not good news, it feels like the world is going mad.

I sit on the bus and think how right George Lucas was; fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate and hate leads to the darkside.
I'm scared.
I'm scared and I'm angry, not angry, I'm furious at how out of control things seem to be, how it feels like we are sat in a trolley, hurtling down a hill with no way of stopping before it crashes at full speed into a brick wall.
I'm angry that the chaos feels out of my hands, how it feels like parts of my life are spinning off their axis and I am powerless to stop them.

And then I remembered the ants....

Yesterday I was weeding our front garden while the kids were eating ice creams on the front steps. Next to the steps was a large mound of soil with plants growing on it. I pulled up the plants and a very large wad of soil came with me, along with a decent swarm of red ants.
I plopped the earth back on top and told the children it was time to go inside. Then I fetched a shovel, boiled the kettle, and went out to wage war.
I dug up the entire mound of earth, pouring boiling water on the ants and their desperate attempts to rescue the eggs. I dug and dug until there was no longer a live ant in sight, and no mound of mud on my concrete path, just a tiny hole in the concrete where I can only assume the rest of the red ant nest thrives on below my house.

(I am actually itching all over as I just think about that)

When I was a kid, from the first time I ever drowned a mound of ants - I felt guilty, such senseless destruction, and why, because I didn't like them being in my way?
With red ants it was different, taught at school they would bite me I always felt vindicated in their destruction, I would tell myself "well they had it coming, they are evil".

Yesterday I was afraid of the ants biting my children.
The very idea that whenever we walk down the path to leave the house, or when Quinn shuffles her bum down the earth mound to reach the ground or whenever we sit on the step they could attack them, made me afraid.
I decided to remove them, and I became angry. How dare they build a nest on my path where we walk everyday, this is my house, what do they think they are doing! This was a personal attack on my and my children, and I began to hate them, with their swarming masses, their bites just waiting to hurt us, their disgusting egg sacks. I felt victorious in every ant I killed, every egg broiled alive, every shovel of mud removed.
Last night a hedgehog was out snuffling around their corpses, eating a few survivors, bringing it's own destruction to their lives, I felt further vindicated in my act of destruction and I was glad, glad they were gone.

This morning, as I was leaving the house I saw something that really made me pause.
I killed hundreds of ants yesterday, possibly thousands, and now, maybe fifty, were carrying dirt and rebuilding the home I had destroyed. A couple were even bringing back the eggs that had swept away down the path in the rivers of boiling water, trying to save them, trying to rebuild.
I had wrecked such immense havoc on them, and there they were, just keeping going.

I'm not sure I have the heart to kill more of them. Who am I to argue with that utter determination. And while they are hardly some higher functioning intelligence or consciousness, they sure have some guts.
 Plucky bastards.
I'm going to have to relocate the mound, probably to the other end of the garden, away from the path - and fill the tiny concrete hole, because the mound is in the way, but that utter destruction  I wrought? It was mostly unnecessary.
These survivors, really don't deserve my rage, hatred, anger or fear. I just need to encourage them to come away from the path, it's not going to actually negatively affect my life to have them living across the yard, or round the corner from me.
I feel guilty.

There is so much going on in the world right now, that makes me want to bury my head and give up on humanity. The ants faced a massive cull to their numbers, their home, and they still rebuild.
There is so much anger in the world right now, that it can feel justified to be angry too, to be livid even at everyone, and everything, and all those opinions that don't match your own, and all the stupid people doing, saying and being things you just don't agree with. But that's not okay either.

No darkness is so all encompassing that you cannot shine a light through it.
So I have a challenge for you, I don't care if you are reading this the day I write it, when the world seems to have gone mad and lost it's way, when the angry voices are louder and seem to be the majority, or if actually its years later and you stumble upon this by accident.
But please, today do one selfless and kind thing.Hold a door open for a stranger, send a friend a text of love and support. It doesn't need to be a big act, just a small one, the only way to turn this tide of darkness, is to shine a light.
Be as mighty as the ants who carry such a small mound of dirt to help make something big together, do just one small act of good, and together these small acts can add up to something incredible.
There is so much dark, and sad and angry in the world right now, the world needs you to do something good today.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Shrimp Girl and the Emergency Situation

Today I am feeling EPIC.
I took the gang into our local town center so they could each buy a football (of their chosen colour) from the poundstore. To kill time before our bus journey home I was letting them play on the large assortment of those stationary "penny" rides which can be found in the shopping mall while the Hubster has gone to the post office.
Ayla is pretending to ride a carousel horse (because I won't put any pennies in it), Gaius is serving me ice cream through the bus window, Zarek is scoping out the new Thomas engine and Quinn is pretending to drive a digger.... when disaster.
The Mall fire alarm goes off.

For any mother of three or more kids, I'm sure you can understand that this is a living nightmare.
I'm quite content to ignore the impending blaze (sure it's a false alarm) rather than attempt to extract four small children off their respective rides - but no, a flood of other shoppers and general shop staff are sweeping towards the exit, and it looks like we have no choice.

We are in emergency mode.

I call Ayla to tell her to come to where the boys were playing, but she can't hear me over the noise of the fire alarm.
I go to her and usher her over to the "bus" where the boys are. Both boys are hiding in the bus, the picture of fright, confused and alarmed by the continuously loud noise.
I tell them to stay put while I go to round up Quinn. I grab Quinn from the other side of the rides and shepherd her towards the others, who, as it turns out have ignored my suggestion that they should stay put and are following me across the mall.

I realize for a moment, that while I'm sure this is a false alarm, we can use it as a trial  (who knows if we will ever be in this situation for real) and they can learn what to do in an emergency. Particularly as we know that children under the age of 4 are more likely to hide from a fire, than try to escape it.
I bend down, anxious not to lose my kids in the stream of exiting shoppers and tell them "this is an alarm, it means there is an emergency, you need to hold hands NOW"
Quinn is, of course, trying to escape to climb back onto the digger I am dragging Quinn back off the digger.
Ayla and Zarek link hands, Quinn is shepherded back to the others and forced to hold Gaius' hand.

Happy that I now have a clear vision of my four, I tell them to link hands together (into a line) and walk calmly through the exit (with me following behind).
They walked brilliantly, calmly, and holding hands.

Outside, far enough away from the building I tell them they can stop now and I sit down on the ground. They are all afraid and bewildered. I explain that the alarm means there is a fire. It might be a little one, or it might be a big one, but that the alarm means we need to get out of the building to somewhere safe.
We discuss whether Fireman Sam might arrive, I give them all high-fives for staying calm and doing good listening in a scary situation and answer their general questions and curiosities, they are all quite concerned that daddy is still inside. (he's not, he's in another part of the town centre)
Eventually the security guards get the all clear on their walkie-talkies and we can go back inside.

I feel awesome for having kept cool under pressure. While the building was hardly burning down around us, it had the potential to be a very stressful situation, with four kids running off in four directions.
I consider now whether I looked panicked on the outside, all I could think is dear God, I'm going to lose someone in the rush. But I kept calm, authoritative, and they did a brilliant job listening and following instructions.
I'm proud of all five of us.

Shrimp Girl just being awesome

(What? You haven't heard of Shrimp Girl?!)

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Peanut Butter Jelly Biscuits

There is nothing better on a wet and windy day, than rustling up hot treats from the kitchen.
One of my favourite recipes for cooking with the kids, are these moreish peanut butter and jelly biscuits (courtesy of Jack).
The best part of baking when I was a kid, was the weighing and measuring. The quantities for this recipe are mostly measured by counting out spoonfuls into the bowl, which makes it a wonderful toddler-friendly activity.


50g butter
Greaseproof paper
2 tblspoon caster sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon of peanut butter
8 tablespoons of plain flour*
1 level teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda*
(*or swap for 8 tablespoons of self raising flour)
4 tablespoons of jam

Makes approx 10 small cookies - so I tend to double all quantities and make two lots

Preheat oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4

Cream the 50g butter and 2 tablespoons of caster sugar together in a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon until soft (or cheat like I do and whisk it).

Add the egg yolk

Add 1 tablespoon of peanut butter.
Mix until the peanut butter is evenly distributed - if you got it out of the fridge giving it a 10 second blast in the microwave helps melt it.
Spoon in the 8 tablespoons of flour and one teaspoon of bicarb* and then stir to make a soft dough.

With lightly floured hands, break off a walnut sized piece of dough. Place it on the greaseproof paper and flatten slightly with the heel of your hand. Repeat with the rest of the mix. Using your thumb make a deep well in the centre of each flattened ball of dough (they will spread slightly as they cook)

Melt the jam slightly in the microwave on low for 30 seconds and then spoon a little into the centre of each cookie.

Bake in the center of the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, or until golden.

Expect tears when your toddler realizes they need to be 'patient' while they cook.

Remove and leave to cool on a wire rack - allow the jam to cool before eating!!!

I find the best cookies have been the ones I squashed very flat before digging my thumb into them. The thicker stacked kind are nice, if a little crumbly.